How to Stimulate Creative Thinking?

Creativity is the defeat of habit by originality.

-Arthur Koestler

By definition, Creativity is the bringing into being of something which did not exist before, either as product, a process or a thought.

Creative Thinking Flow

Well, what is Creative Thinking?

As Rod Judkins says in his book The Art of Creative Thinking, we don’t learn to walk by reading a book on how to walk. We learn by walking, falling over, getting up and trying again. There is no right way of doing anything. So, you must find your way. Wherever you work, try to work out for yourself how to do things.

Give a fresh perspective to problems that suggest unorthodox solutions. Creative thinking is stimulated by process such as brainstorming or a process like lateral thinking.

Whatever I know how to do, I’ve already done. Therefore I must always do what I do not know how to do.

-Eduardo Chillida

How does a brain work creatively?

Science hasn’t really figured exactly what happens inside our brains during the creative process. In reality, it combines a whole bunch of different brain processes which is contrary to the popular theory that says creative process uses one or the other side of the brain, whereas it actually includes both sides of our brains working together.

Creative thinking uses three areas of the brain-

1. Attentional Control Network

This is what helps us focus. Basically, it’s an individual’s capacity to choose what they pay attention to.

2. The Imagination Network

This is what we use when we imagine situations based on personal experience, such as when we remember things that happened in the past, or when we think about our future. Even when we consider alternative scenarios for present. The imagination network is at work when we try to consider what someone else is thinking.

3. The Attentional Flexibility Network

This area monitors both external and internal thoughts, tapping into whatever information is most salient to solving the task at hand. This also brings the mental ability to swap between thinking about two or more different concepts simultaneously.

However, none of these creativity networks are located exclusively on the left or right side of the brain. Imagination, innovation and creating something requires the entire mind and these take both creative and analytical skills.

Creativity processing

The process of producing ideas

We can definitely say that ideas are made from finding relationship or connections between existing elements, we need to keep a mental inventory of these elements before we start connecting them.

To prepare our brain for producing ideas, needs great time and effort for this process of making new connections. Hence, for our brains to have something to work with, we need to get into the habit of collecting information that’s around us.

Some studies have given us ways to help increase our creativity.

1. A Tired brain can do better creative work

Unlike in the case of solving analytic problems, creative insights generally come when we let our minds wander; let it go into seemingly unrelated areas. Many of us call ourselves morning or night persons, and accordingly work on our most difficult tasks at particular times of the day. But, a research suggests creative thinking actually works at non-optimal times. So, if you call yourself a morning person, your brain might work better at night to find you better creative insights, i.e. when you are tired. The reason for this is that when your brain is tired it struggles to focus on one thing and has to filter out distractions. You are more likely to wander off to another area. This might seem like a really bad idea when working, but creative thinking actually benefits from distraction. We actually “think out of the box” at our non-optimal times.

2. Creativity is better with ambient noise

Generally silence is thought to be the best sound for creative thinking, but as it turns out some ambient sound levels might help. It’s proven that ambient noise level are perfect for improving creative thinking. But this doesn’t mean to surround yourself with loud music or pin-drop silence.

You might have experienced it yourself. When you are at a beach, the ambient noise of the waves hitting the shore seems soothing. Artists and writers often find the seaside as a place where they get new ideas, discover new musings.  Silence actually sharpens one’s focus, so it might be useful for a detail oriented task or at intense problem solving. On the other hand, a soft ambient sound boosts creativity.

We can actually see that this might be true as tools like Coffitivity exist, and bring various ambient sounds for you.

3. Dim lights might set our brain free

This study came as a surprise to me. I love a lot of natural light in my workspace, and it’s frustrating in dark rooms when I have to focus. However, this particular research proved that dim lights actually improve creative performance. The six studies done by the researches, showed that dim lighting increased creativity. That the participants were more creative even without noticing that there was a difference in visibility. They attributed this from the subconscious feeling of getting the freedom to explore.


There’s a lot to be added here, and no doubt we really can’t put everything from the studies about how to improve your creative thinking. Let us begin with taking one step at a time and change one thing about your process or work environment, this would eventually lead you to incorporating much more into your day.

If I’d observed all the rules, I’d never have got anywhere.

-Marilyn Monroe

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